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Dating is hard

Dating online, even harder.

We’ve all heard stories from friends who complain about their experiences from dating in general and online dating in particular.

“If I know now what I had known then…” is a common refrain. Not to mention “I wish I saw all the red flags”.

That’s what friends are for, usually, to listen to our dating (mis)adventures and to suss out any potential flags we may have overlooked while wearing our rose-tinted glasses.

But one influencer may have taken it too far when she created a Telegram group called “sg dating adventures”.

The woman, Koh Boon Ki, 22, made a post on Sunday to her more than 112,000 followers on TikTok, about creating a Telegram group for “girls from all the dating apps in Singapore” to “discuss the guys we’ve talked to and dates we’ve been on”.

While it got some support, the move sparked a backlash online when some netizens accused her of doxxing.

As it turned out, a Google spreadsheet had been uploaded to the Telegram group where details of dozens of men were compiled into two tabs labelled “Blacklist” and “Avoid”. Also on the sheet were allegations ranging from cheating to sexual assault.

Telegram group relationship

Koh later uploaded a TikTok post admitting that she “did not put enough consideration into setting boundaries and rules within the chat to moderate the discussion”

“I did not realise that it was slowly spiralling into a ‘name and shame’ group,” she said.

Koh said that the Google spreadsheet uploaded in the group chat was not created by her and that she has asked the creator to delete the document.

“I set out to create a girls’ group chat to share dating experience and not a shaming group to flame guys.”

The influencer added that she has since learnt her lesson but remained adamant that having a girls’ group chat is a “fun idea” as long as there were “rules set in place to maintain safe and respectful discussion”.

Telegram group relationship
Image source: TikTok

The Straits Times quoted a lawyer as saying that Koh may be liable to criminal prosecution under the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha).

Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) also warned that the influencer’s actions may be problematic. Said a spokesperson for the women’s advocacy group: “There is always the chance of inaccurate or possibly malicious information being submitted through an open document.”

Why create such groups?

Telegram group relationship
Image source: Shuttlestock / CGN089

Let’s try to understand the thought process behind having such a Telegram group.

There are predatory men. Check.

Women can get hurt by them. Check.

People should warn others about them. Check.

But the devil, as always, is in the details. This system is rife for abuse. What if it’s a “he says, she says,” situation? Doesn’t the perpetuator get to defend himself? That’s how it works in the court of law, but hardly so in the court of public opinion.

What if it’s a misunderstanding? Emotions run high in relationships. Even more so when it falls apart. Even more so when you complain about it to friends. How often have you gone crying to a group of buddies and said “oh, I got dumped… and it was totally my fault.”

In other words, there may be some self-serving bias involved here.

And those are just the innocent mistakes. What if there is malice involved?

What if the so-called perpetuator is actually an innocent victim? What if the so-called victim was the toxic one? #plottwist.

On Reddit, netizens chimed in with their own comments.

Said u/tinboyboy: “Just imagine the furore if a guy were to create a channel and spreadsheet on details of girls who are potentially gold diggers and out for a free meal. The guy would get sued till his pants dropped and then chastised by every single person.”

Another, u/Corporateikanbilis, put it succinctly: “A public platform for vindictive exes, what could possibly go wrong?”

Equality means equal respect and fairness

Telegram group relationship
Image source: Shuttlestock / myboys.me

In previous, more chauvinistic times, women were more protected and in some ways, they do deserve more protection.

For example, in March, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann announced a Singapore Together Alliance for Action that seeks to explore ways to keep women and girls safe online.

It’s a different time now and women have taken great strides towards equality. But in this journey towards fairness, let’s not overcompensate.

Toxicity is not limited only to men. What is good for the gander has to be good for the goose.

The argument that “men have worse groups” doesn’t wash. The solution to toxicity isn’t more toxicity. Having a neighbour with a dog that keeps barking isn’t justification for getting a dog yourself. #rightproblemwrongsolution

On TikTok, user @g1ennice said that the Telegram group is a “great idea in theory” but in practice, it would “go south really, really fast”. She added that it makes women seem like hypocrites because now it seems as if they are doing the same things that they are accusing men of doing.

She said: “It is dismissing the efforts of women who have fought against this in the past. This is not the feminist movement that you think it is.”

Dating is a process

Telegram group relationship
Image source: Shuttlestock / Dragon Images

One of the Reddit forums that I lurk on (purely for research purposes!) is this sub-reddit called AITA. There, users would post their experiences in a dispute, lay out what they believe to be the facts, and then ask the community at large whether “Am I The A**hole?” Then redditors would adjudicate, sometimes asking for more information, other times digging for themselves, and come to a reasoned response whether the original poster was TA or not.

For an online forum, the comments tend oddly to be fair, if not skewed a little liberal. But, and here’s the important thing, they take it on good faith that the original poster is not making up a story. As the old adage goes: Garbage in, garbage out.

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That is the danger of getting support from the online community. They only know as much as you tell them or as much as they can find out – which, to be fair, can be quite a lot as some of our CSI sleuths have illustrated.

At the end of the day, dating is between two people, and everyone else is just a bystander. Friends can advise. And good friends do point out red flags. But you can’t always bring a friend on a date like some chaperone or referee.

And unilaterally declaring someone as dodgy to the online community at large may be a step too far.

Telegram group relationship
Image source: Shuttlestock / Tom Wang

Dating is many things. Dating can be fun and casual if you’re just looking for a like-minded person to spend some time with and be happy. But it can be tough when casual dates turn serious and you start to look for a soulmate to spend the rest of your life with.

In fact, it should be harder when the stakes get higher.

That’s why dating is a process, you pick up life skills when you meet people, you learn to spot suspicious behaviour and set your boundaries. More importantly, you learn more about yourself in the process. Unfortunately, that often comes with emotional hurt when things turn out badly.

You can’t short-circuit that growth journey. And while I understand the need to protect yourself (for both men and women), it should not come at the expense of others. This, I’m afraid, in the words of a popular sub-reddit, makes YTA.

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Top Image: TikTok